WELCOMING THE YEAR OF THE HORSE

February 19, 2002 12:00 am
Jeff Beebe and Cindy Thomas lead lions in dance after being awakened by jester (Jon Loren). ().
Jeff Beebe and Cindy Thomas lead lions in dance after being awakened by jester (Jon Loren). ().

Following a longer than normal year on the Chinese calendar, martial artists from Northern Tai Chi Tum Pai Gung-Fu Association welcomed 4699, the year of the horse.

The celebration, which included colorful lion dances and martial arts demonstrations, was Saturday in the street in front of Lees Dragon Gate Restaurant.

The actual Chinese New Year was Tuesday. The new year falls on the second new moon following the winter solstice. Because of the lunar cycles, 4698 began Jan. 24, therefore an extra leap month was added following the Chinese fourth month.

Festivities began with the explosion of a string of firecrackers followed by a jester, played by the associations sifu (which means teacher), Jon Loren. After performing a dance, the jester spots a sword and uses it to awaken the sleeping dragons in the cave.

After several attempts from the jester and from a band of drummers to awaken the lions from their slumber, they finally arise to perform their new years dances.

The adult lions are operated by Jeff Beebe and Huw Greathead, and Cindy Thomas and Deane McConnell. Loren said the red (female) lion, which like the gold lion is a special event lion, is new this year. Each lion has a different meaning and routine.

Next the child lions are awakened to join in the new years dance, which includes greeting members of the audience.

The goal of the lions is to reach for lucky lettuce that is hanging in front of the restaurant. The head dancer stands on the shoulder of the tail dancer to give the effect of the lion standing tall to take the lettuce.

Once the three lions take their lettuce, they proceed to chew it up and scatter it, blessing people with prosperity for the new year.

Martial arts forms were presented following the lion dances, including a special presentation by guest sifu Jerry Weldon of Battle Ground, Wash. Highlighting his presentation was a chain-whip routine.

Loren said Weldon was a student of his 27 years ago in Washington. Weldon now operates a school in the Vancouver, Wash., area.

Forms varied from self-defense to relaxation. They included broadsword, use of bamboo staffs, knife grappling and sword versus three sectional performed by Greathead and McConnell. Loren said this routine was probably the hardest and most dangerous.

Routines featured comedy skits, which included one where McConnell and Cindy Thomas pretended to be attacked by a thug (played by Colin Waite). The skit brought laughter to the audience.

Following the one-hour program, members and guests were treated to a Chinese lunch prepared by George and Letty Lee, restaurant owners.